Under the Trees, Eaten got its debut reading this weekend at a time when it was a book you could purchase. I read several excerpts at the Underdog Poets’ Academy, a reading night for emerging authors that my friend Sarah B organizes with her business partner Maddy C in the independent publishing and literature non-profit, Meat Locker Editions.
The Academy is a monthly reading night for emerging and chrysalitic authors in Toronto and the surrounding area. It happens in the upstairs lounge of a bar called The Central at Bloor and Markham streets, just across from Bathurst Station. However, it’s going bi-monthly for a while, as Sarah and Maddy enter a period when their company becomes, as Sarah put it to me last night, ridiculously busy. Check the link I’ve posted above for more of Meat Locker’s worthwhile projects.
I was happy to share the bill with some worthwhile poets, whose work varied from intense and insightful to ironically hilarious parody. The last time I read at the Academy, I squeezed five minutes of material into the open mike section on a sparsely attended night in late February. This weekend, I read a few excerpts from a performance text that I drew up for a plan I have for a 40 minute reading. That larger plan will be for solo headlining performance and a multimedia show that I’ll need collaborators to develop.
|My novella also engages with the sci-fi
tradition of giant insect imagery. All class.
Under the Trees, Eaten is a book that does a lot of things, and I designed my set of excerpts to demonstrate as much of that as possible. The excerpts I read began introducing the mystery and suspense, but also profound moments: Marilyn’s first meeting with a native of the isolated and alien town of Seul-Coeur faces her with hostility and implicit threats of violence. As they fly to the town, their small plane is attacked by a strange green lightning that envelops her guide Pierre.
Yet there is also a deep moment in conversation between Marilyn and Pierre, as he describes his experience ice fishing and the dangers of bear attacks at particular times of the year. A bear has a soul, he says. “It is a soul that seriously considers eating you, which is why you need the gun, but it is still a soul. There are very few people who understand that about a bear.”
The line got just the reaction I hoped it would: laughter and thoughtful nods, one right after the other. I think the deepest truths in human life occur side by side with laughter.
Under the Trees, Eaten is also a very feminist book in that it has a female protagonist intruding on the framework of a Lovecraftian story (most clearly expressed by the sections in which her father narrates his tragic adventure in the area, which takes place three years before the main narrative) in a creative destruction. I read a scene at the end of chapter three where Marilyn and Pierre confront each other about his continued caginess. He stands over her, in a moment that I explicitly code, through Marilyn’s own accusation, as an expression of the body language of domestic violence.
Not going to lie. I had the audience eating out of the palm of my hand at that scene. I think I lost a couple with my description of the otherworldly mutilated moose Marilyn discovers in Pierre’s barn. But my audience was intrigued.
In theatre news, Mel tells me that rehearsals on You Were My Friend are going swimmingly. We plan to meet later this week to go over the media plan, and my team will likely (given our assignment schedule) get started on promotion in the next week or two. It’s coming together quite fast, really, but the official debut is in five weeks. It will approach faster than I can feel.